Nature teaches us true prosperity is a win-win for all involved.
Spring is a beautiful time to witness nature’s miraculous cycle of renewing life; and Easter has several beautiful concepts to appreciate, regardless of what the day means to you (religious or otherwise). My mind was flooded with an abundance of thoughts during a morning spring run. I would love to share them.
Growth and Abundance is the Natural State
Everything in nature is born with a desire and propensity for growth. But there are different ways in which organisms can grow. The first is a symbiotic state where the growth and expansion of one species benefit the growth and expansion of another. The other is when an organism (or species) derives its growth by eating at and/or destroying another--oftentimes its host (think parasites, cancer cells, or harmful viruses). This type of growth is rooted in destruction, whereas the other is rooted in a beautiful life-giving and life-sharing state of interconnectedness. A win-win.
Destructive growth benefits only one source, but its benefit is only temporary since it eventually kills its host, causing it to either die itself or move on to seek new life to steal. The growth motive is strictly rooted in survival. Yes, it may appear to have periods of fat and sassy abundance, but those moments are short-lived. What can appear to be a strong and intimidating species is really a weak and cowardly leech. It has nothing of value to offer the species it destroys. What’s more telling is the fact these species often develop in unnatural conditions where there is imbalance and disharmony in the natural environment. Nature is about life and growth. When nature’s conditions are defied, altered, or circumvented, you get abnormal and altered life forms.
Symbiotic growth, on the other hand, is much more vibrant, abundant, and beautiful. It grows by giving, and it gives by growing. The more it grows, the more it gives. The more other interconnected species derive from it, the more they, too, can give back--resulting in a continued cycle of abundance, creation, and life.
I think nature teaches us a valuable lesson about how we can shape our societies and connections with one another. We confuse selfishness with personal growth. We have witnessed centuries of dark periods in history where cowardly, tyrannical rulers, leaders, and conquerors appeared to prosper while the masses starved, died, and eked out a meager existence. In the end, though, where are those people? Where, and what, are their legacies? What did they really leave behind that is of value? Sure, some of their names live on; a history book gives them a “shout-out”; maybe they left a castle or something. But the most timeless thing they left, perhaps, was a false perception that in order to grow and survive, one could only do so by hindering or destroying the growth of others.
It’s Not Our Fault We Think This Way
Our ancestors who lived these experiences in real-time perpetuated harmful beliefs about wealth and abundance via religious and social teachings over the generations. If you're like me and primarily descend from poor European ancestors, the western Judeo-Christian beliefs of their time and culture taught them to sneer at the wealthy, loath the aristocracy, and envy anyone who appeared to accumulate more than they “needed to get by.” And can you blame them? And while these ancestors may have left little to pass on as far as tangible wealth goes, we as their descendants inherited something more timeless--their beliefs and the trauma they experienced trying to survive in tyrant-created conditions.
Specifically related to the topic at hand, western society inherited a cultural and unconscious, albeit false, belief that if you seek your own growth and prosperity, you can only do so by harming someone else. Someone out there is lacking because you gained (or so the paradigm goes). And this, my dear friends, is how our collective view of selfishness was borne, and, I might add, pretty much all of our economic systems and behaviors that futiley seek to either eliminate, mitigate, or disguise it. (Yes, capitalism, socialism, and communism--pretty much all our modern political "isms,"--are varying shades of the same color. But that's a topic for another essay). All rest on a foundation of lack-mentality and a desperation to survive (along with harsh judgment rooted in envy and self-righteous pride). But yet, it's a paradigmatic framework of our own making. It's not real.
I've always found it ironic that Americans have a weird love/hate relationship with money and the wealthy. We all want it desperately, but then we turn around and teach our kids it's "the root of all evil." How schizophrenic is that?! Sadly, these are the drivers behind pretty much all our politics, business practices, relationships, and even our shopping and hoarding habits. (Here's to all those 2020 toilet paper hoarders guarding their stash with an AR-15...).
It’s time we unlearn these beliefs and cultivate new ones. Truths we can learn from nature.
The Blossoms and the Bees
When we seek to grow and prosper, we can do so in one of two ways, symbiotically or parasitically. It’s up to us. If we choose the symbiotic pattern, we not only grow and expand by giving what we create, we also grow because we’re receiving benefits from the growth of others--growth they receive because we created and gave to them! Yes, that last sentence is pretty jam-packed. But it’s important and beautiful!
We are not selfish just because we care for and invest in ourselves. Is a peach tree selfish for seeking to populate its bare branches with beautiful spring blossoms? No! The tree’s growth yields blossoms that produce pollen. Pollen the bees then collect to make sweet honey and spread to other trees’ blossoms. The pollinating bees help create delicious fruit to nourish human and non-human beings, but any leftover fruit then falls to the ground and releases seeds; seeds that can yield new peach trees! It is creation, giving, and growth all witnessed in a tiny slice of a beautiful, harmonious ecosystem. There is nothing selfish about it. Instead, selfishness is when we gain from another’s loss we or someone else inflicts. And that includes non-human beings, ecosystems, and other parts of nature, too!
True prosperity is a win-win for all involved (human and non-human alike). Interconnectedness makes it impossible for us to rise or fall alone. It’s up to us. In the end, the path we choose determines what we really leave behind. Do we leave more life? Do we leave more love? Do we leave a legacy of creativity and abundance others can partake of to nurture their own?
Shedding the old beliefs of lack and fear allow our true, inner selves to emerge. In that process, we can discover the unique gifts, mission, and purpose our beautiful "self” holds within. Seeking to create and express those offerings are our “peach blossoms.” The world needs them, and we need to produce them if we want to continue thriving ourselves.
Today, let us choose to grow by creating and expressing the beauty within. Let us grow by giving and sharing it with others. Then, let us grow even more by receiving the creations given by others. Together, we will thrive as we take part in the beautiful cycle of life: create, give, grow, repeat.